BY CARL GREEN
Democratic candidate for Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker has gained another major labor endorsement, this one from the Midwest Region of the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA), which represents more than 55,000 construction, health care and industrial workers – including 18,000 members in 28 downstate Illinois locals.
Pritzker, a venture capitalist and philanthropist stopped at Laborers Local 362 hall in Bloomington to accept the endorsement.
LIUNA Vice President and Midwest Regional Manager John Penn said Pritzker’s commitment to putting people back to work made the difference.
“J.B. Pritzker has a track record of creating jobs in the private sector, and J.B. understands full well that putting thousands of construction workers to work rebuilding our state is not only good for them and their families, it’s crucial to the Illinois economy,” Penn said.
“If Bruce Rauner wins, his Koch brothers network – that’s what he belongs to, this right-wing network – will have eviscerated unions across the Midwest,” Pritzker said. “We are an island. We have to protect this state from their onslaught. We need to win in 2018.”
Added Penn: “Workers have learned over the last three long years what Bruce Rauner’s agenda is. The attacks on the rights and wages of Illinois workers will only end the day that Rauner leaves the governor’s office for good.”
PUTTING WORKING PEOPLE FIRST
Soon after winning the endorsement, Pritzker was a guest at the Southwestern Illinois Central Labor Council Awards Dinner in Belleville.
“It is time to put working people first, working families first,” he said. “I can promise you, we’re going to do that.
“Today we’ve got a governor who badmouths this state,” Pritzker said. “All across the country, they listen to this governor and think, ‘Well, there’s nothing great about Illinois, there’s nothing good here.’ But you know what? Illinois has the most educated and dedicated workforce in the country. It is truly a terrific place for people do business and create jobs.”
Pritzker earned the endorsement of the Illinois AFL-CIO and 14 Chicago-area unions, mostly trades groups, in June. He has also been endorsed by the Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois and the Illinois Nurses Association for the Democratic primary next March.
Illinois AFL-CIO President Mike Carrigan, who was also a guest at the dinner, said it was important for Organized Labor to get behind a candidate who will fight for working people.
Pritzker has laid out a five-point plan to bring new jobs to Illinois focusing on infrastructure, small business development, higher education funding, agriculture and manufacturing.
• INFRASTRUCTURE – A plan to rebuild railroads, highways, bridges and facilities in the state is long overdue.
“It doesn’t just create jobs for those building those buildings or building those roads or rails,” Pritzker said. “It creates jobs because businesses will want to be in Illinois when we’ve got great infrastructure.”
• SMALL BUSINESS – Entrepreneurs with big ideas create two thirds of the state’s new jobs, but without much help from the state.
“No one’s standing up for them,” he said. “The state of Illinois ought to be standing on the side of people who want to start a business and people who are building their small businesses.”
• HIGHER EDUCATION – “We’ve got make sure we’ve got vocational training in our high schools so the kids can graduate and get jobs,” Pritzker said. “We’ve got to invest in our community colleges. For people to retain jobs and stay in jobs, lifelong learning is incredibly important.”
• AGRICULTURE – Gov. Rauner has ignored or even diminished agricultural support and education.
“Agriculture is truly the number one export in this state, the number one industry,” he said. “It’s something that often gets forgotten by people who become governor. They ask people for their votes all across the state, and then ag gets left behind. We need to stand up for agriculture education.”
• MANUFACTURING – In trying to attract or keep large manufacturers, the Rauner administration has not been helpful to smaller manufacturers capable of generating new jobs.
“There are lots of small manufacturers in this state who just need a little bit of promotional help to sell our products all over the world, and the state can provide small business loans using federal programs,” he said.